Jae’Sean Tate out of Ohio State is a sleeper pick in this draft. Tate, a 6-foot-4, 230 pound forward, bounced back in a big way in his last two years after a down first two years in his college career.
He is not projected in any mock drafts yet, but he is a very good defensive player and a very good offensive player. He finishes very well in traffic. He might be a bit undersized in terms of height, but he makes up for it with his great athleticism. He is also a great passer, even in traffic. He has great vision on the court as well.
Tate creates for his teammates very well. He shot a very high percentage from the floor this past season. He has a very high basketball IQ. He also spaces the floor very well, and for a 6’4″ guy, he can rebound the ball very well. He averaged 6.2 rebounds per game this past season.
He is the energy guy NBA teams would love to have, and he labels himself as an energy guy.
“Just a tough guy,” Tate said at the NBA Combine. “I think I can defend one through four, and just bring energy. My whole career at Ohio State, I’ve been that energy guy and a guy who’s going to make tough plays. I’m able to score in the post and take bigger defenders on the drive, so I think that’s going to be my fit.”
He also wants to be a hard-nose defender in the NBA. He reads the floor very well on the defensive end of the floor. He creates havoc on that end of the floor. He averaged 1.1 steals and 0.6 blocks per game this past season. In total, he had 36 steals and 19 blocks on the season.
“I think I’m just going to be one of those tough-nosed defenders, man,” Tate said. “That’s my whole mindset. Go in there and just defend every play, and just whatever the coach needs me to do, that’s what I want to do. I’ve done it at every level. I’m not really a position, have a position, but at every level I found a way to make it work. And I think if a team will just take a chance on me, I can be successful at the next level.”
It may take a couple of years of development, but Tate is a sleeper in this draft. Any team needs an energy guy off the bench. He can be a Marcus Smart type of energy guy, spark plug off the bench. He certainly has the qualities to be that type of player. What makes this kid special is how high of a percentage he shoots on the offensive end. Not many college players shoot 55.7 percent from the floor. The one aspect of his offensive game he needs work on is his three point shooting. It will come overtime. He shot 31.4 percent from three in his this past season.
Tate wants to be a hybrid type of player who can be in small-ball lineups.
“I don’t like to use the comparison but kind of like a Draymond-type guy; like a hybrid, play small ball, able to defend guards and bigger offensive players,” Tate said.
NBA AM: Defensive Player of the Year Rankings
The Utah Jazz have had immense success this season, so two of their best players find themselves at the top of the latest rankings.
In the third edition of the Defensive Player of the Year rankings for Basketball Insiders, the players who have continued to excel on defense will be highlighted. These lockdown defenders have made huge impacts for their teams so far, and look to continue to do so. With the loss of Anthony Davis due to a right calf strain he suffered this past Sunday, the Los Angeles Lakers lost their defensive anchor and their second-best player. Davis will be re-evaluated in two to three weeks, but for the time being, his chances at winning this award have taken a hit. With all of that being said, let’s take a look at the third edition of the DPotY rankings.
1. Mike Conley (Previous: 3)
Mike Conley should be the frontrunner for this award at this point because his improved play has elevated the team to another level. The Utah Jazz are currently the best team in the NBA, and Conley has been a huge factor on the defensive side of the ball. The point guard continues to be a pest for opposing guards whenever he steps foot on the court.
Among starters who have played at least 20 games this season, Conley continues to lead the way in defensive win shares with 0.183, per NBA Advanced Stats. Combine this notable stat with the fact that he also leads the league in defensive rating at 98.9. He also averages a very solid 1.4 steals per game.
Conley has missed the last five games with soreness in his right hamstring, but he may return for a pivotal matchup with the Clippers tonight.
2. Rudy Gobert (Previous: 4)
The centerpiece of the Jazz defense has been having yet another elite defensive season as of yet. Gobert is having the best defensive season for big men once again thus far, and he, just like Conley, has been a big factor in the success of the Jazz.
Gobert continues to rank second in the NBA in blocks–behind only Myles Turner– with 2.8 blocks per game. If he can continue to protect the rim at this level, he would beat his previous career-high of 2.6 blocks per game.
The Jazz center ranks third in the league among starters in defensive rating at 102.9, per NBA Advanced Stats. He also leads all centers in defensive win shares with 0.153 showing how valuable he is to the Jazz. Expect Gobert to be a frontrunner for the award amid the unexpected Jazz improvement this year.
3. Myles Turner (Previous: 1)
Previously regarded as the leading player to win this award, Myles Turner has slipped a bit due to the Indiana Pacers’ recent struggles. The Pacers are 3-7 in their last ten games and while it is not solely Turner’s fault, it still factors into his ranking.
Turner continues to be an elite rim protector as he leads the league in blocks per game with 3.5. He is also sixth in steals per game among starting centers, with 1.1. He should not be counted out as a contender for this prestigious award, and if the Pacers can turn around their recent struggles, he could shoot back up in the rankings.
4. LeBron James (Previous: N/A)
One of the best players the game of basketball has ever seen deserves a spot on this list for his defensive play this season. James has not made an All-Defensive team since 2014, but this year might be the first in a while.
According to NBA Advanced Stats, James is second in the NBA among starters in both defensive rating and defensive win shares with 102.6 and 0.177. He also is averaging 1.1 steals per game, which is good enough for 10th in the league.
With the loss of Anthony Davis for an extended period, James is going to have to step it up even more on defense. Losing Davis’s presence on defense hurts the Lakers, but they should not have any reasons to worry as they have the best player on the planet to assume his role. Keep an eye on LeBron as he steps it up in the coming weeks and puts himself into the conversation for the award.
5. Clint Capela (Previous: 5)
It is not often that a player gets a triple-double, but Clint Capela had an unorthodox one last month. In a Jan. 22nd matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Capela managed to put up 13 points, 19 rebounds and 10 blocks. According to Sports Illustrated, he is the second player in the last five seasons to accomplish such a feat.
Capela is third in the league in blocks per game with 2.2 the way things stand right now. Add in a stellar defensive win share of 0.116 and a defensive rating of 106.5, per NBA Advanced Stats, and it is easy to see why he is on this list. As the Hawks continue their playoff push in the East, Capela should be in the conversation for DPotY.
Honorable Mention: Kawhi Leonard (Previous: N/A)
The Klaw has managed to put together yet another elite season on defense so far this season as he’s kept the Clippers at the top of the Western Conference. While his stats may not jump off of the page, his defensive presence is one that is nothing to joke about. He is called the Klaw for a reason, right?
Kawhi ranks second in the league in steals per game among starters who have played at least 20 games with 1.8. He has also lowered his defensive rating by a lot and is now down to 108.3, per NBA Advanced Stats. Kawhi is a matchup nightmare for opposing players and should his defensive play continue to elevate, he can rise in these rankings.
Once again, stay tuned for the next edition of the Defensive Player of the Year rankings to see how things keep unraveling.
NBA AM: Draymond Green Is Having an Unprecedented Season
Even though the offense has struggled, Draymond Green remains one of the NBA’s most unique and versatile defenders.
Draymond Green has long been considered one of the most unique players in NBA history. His skill set allows him to have one of the worst shooting seasons in recent memory, yet still be an integral part of the Golden State Warriors’ success. Green is no longer the Defensive Player of the Year or All-Star he once was, but he’s been as important as ever to the back-on-the-map dynasty.
Naturally, Green is having the worst statistical season of his career since his rookie season. He’s averaging just 5 points per game while shooting an abysmal 34 percent from the field and 19.5 percent on three-pointers. On top of that, he’s also struggling to finish around the rim. He’s shooting just 26.7 percent in the paint (non-restricted area) per NBA.com.
But it extends beyond that: only two players in NBA history have averaged 5 or fewer points per game while shooting 35 percent or less from the field and less than 20 percent on three-point attempts while playing over 28 minutes per game – of course, that’s Green and Dennis Rodman. Even then, Rodman only attempted two three-pointers while Green has attempted 41. In turn, the case can be made that he is having the worst shooting season in NBA history.
For just about every other NBA player, they would be relegated to the end of the bench if not cut from the team altogether. Almost no one has put up the number he has while playing his amount of minutes. Draymond Green, however, has been the Warriors’ second-most important player.
While his scoring and efficiency have fallen off a cliff, Green is still having a positive impact on the Golden State offense. He’s one of the best screen-setters in the league and he’s still an effective playmaker. Averaging 7.8 assists per game, which is the most on the team and also a career-high, Green’s ability as a ballhandler has taken some offensive load from Stephen Curry’s shoulders. He’s also been crucial as a communicator and mentor, as he can often be seen yelling at teammates to get into the right positions.
A staple of the Warriors’ offense for the past half-decade has been handing Green the ball in the post not to score, but to facilitate. Here, Golden States uses a split action and Green’s vision for an easy bucket.
Green’s greatest impact may come with how much easier he makes the game for Curry. Warrior lineups with Green and Curry have outscored opponents by 83 points in their minutes together, per NBA.com. The synergy between these two is beautiful to watch as they know exactly how to play off one another. Green is constantly looking to get his star open and Curry knows that.
Look at how instinctual this play is for these two:
Green also acts as a release valve for Curry when in the pick-and-roll. Teams often look to trap Curry and that’s when he drops it off for Green who gets to attack the defense in a 4-on-3 situation.
Here’s an example of how it leads to easy offense for Golden State:
Even with the plummeting scoring ability, Green is still an all-world defender. He is more than effective on switches and can blow-up pick-and-rolls single-handily. His knack for great elite weak-side help has been crucial for the Warriors’ defense – and has been for the better part of the dynasty.
Over the years, Green has lost a step athletically, but he’s still one of the best at staying vertical and avoiding fouls.
Green’s uniqueness has never been more evident than this season. Per NBA.com, the Warriors have outscored opponents by 77 points in all of Green’s minutes this season. That’s the most on the team, even higher than Curry. When Green is on the bench, the Warriors have been outscored by opponents by 52 points. Even as he’s putting up the worst shooting splits of anyone who plays big minutes, his impact is still felt.
Draymond Green’s numbers are down across the board, other than his assists. There are few plays where he grabs a rebound and goes coast-to-coast as he used to, but Father Time is undefeated. He’s no longer an elite rim protector and he’s really struggled to finish around the hoop himself. Yet, Green still has a 5.3 net rating. The overall athleticism has dropped off but his intelligence allows him to remain a productive player for Golden State.
Draymond Green is now 30 years old and his best seasons seem to be in the rearview mirror. However, this version of Green is still a great, impactful player – even if the box score often refuses to show it. For now, Green is having one of the most unique seasons the NBA has ever seen.
NBA AM: Miami HEAT Treading Water, But Don’t Count Them Out
Following an NBA Finals berth, the Miami Heat have struggled to put everything together this season. But with Jimmy Butler back, better things are on the horizon.
As things currently sit, the Miami HEAT are not in a position to make the playoffs this season, but all it takes is a quick winning streak for that to change. With the addition of the play-in games for the ninth and tenth seeds in the conference, the HEAT have a realistic shot of making it. They are right on the brink of the tenth seed, and only about a game and a half out of the eighth spot.
The team has not been successful this season due to a lack of consistency as well as COVID outbreaks within the team. After playing the Wizards in January, the team suffered from the Washington curse and lost stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo for a stretch of games. They went on to drop two straight to the Philadelphia 76ers and lost to the reeling Detroit Pistons squad. The HEAT have been one of the hardest-hit teams due to COVID this season, but it has been a common theme throughout the league.
Moreover, Butler has only played in half of the team’s games this year. Goran Dragić has missed more than a handful of games and so has the star of the bubble, Tyler Herro. Kendrick Nunn fell out of favor for a little while after poor performances to start the season. Avery Bradley just suffered a calf injury and will now miss 3-to-4 weeks, according to Shams Charania. The team has just not been able to all be on the court at the same time and that has held them back this year.
Let’s not forget that they took down the Indiana Pacers 4-0 in the first round of the playoffs, the Milwaukee Bucks 4-1 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and the Boston Celtics 4-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals this past season. They did lose Jae Crowder and Derrick Jones Jr., two key players from their finals run, but the core of the Miami team is still intact and under contract.
In terms of future roster makeup, both Andre Iguodala and Meyers Leonard have pending club options on the horizon that could be declined. For Iguodala, it’s unrealistic to pay $15 million at 37-years-old. Although he remains a valuable presence on the court, his play is not up to the money on the table. Leonard was a factor in the team’s playoff run last season, but not a big one. As he recovers from a shoulder injury that has put him out for the season this year, it should not be surprising if the team elects to go in a different direction.
Elsewhere, Precious Achiuwa and Tyler Herro should be big factors for the team next season. Achiuwa has been somewhat of a steal for the HEAT at the 20th overall selection in the 2020 NBA Draft due to his strong interior presence. He is not a shooter by any means, but he uses his 6-foot-8, 225-pound frame to his advantage around the rim. As he gets more accustomed to the NBA, especially with a full offseason, he’ll be a key piece moving forward.
Herro, on the other hand, is posting 17.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. Even if he continues to average in the high teens for points and keeps knocking down threes, Herro will be a huge part of the HEAT in the years to come.
Looking at free agency, there’s a whole crop of potentially available players, all depending on how the season unfolds from here – Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to name a few. If the Los Angeles Clippers have another disappointing postseason run, Leonard could opt out, get even more money and join another contender. But a couple of more realistic names for the HEAT to consider might be former All-Stars like Kyle Lowry and Andre Drummond.
Lowry may not be an upgrade over Dragić, but he’s averaging 17.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game on a middle-of-the-pack Toronto Raptors squad. The Raptors will probably part ways with Lowry this offseason – if not before the trade deadline – and the fit with Miami is an easy one.
Adding Drummond brings the flexibility to permanently move Adebayo to the forward spot and let him roam more freely on defense. If the Cleveland Cavaliers decided to part ways with the big man, the double-double-earning veteran might be perfect.
All in all, the HEAT are still a very good team and can’t be counted out in the Eastern Conference. While the bubble NBA Finals feels like a whole lifetime ago, the crazy ups-and-downs of pandemic basketball have proved troubling, but not insurmountable for the reigning conference champions. With Butler back on the court and rhythm starting to click, it won’t be long until Miami has the groove back entirely.